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Photo Courtesy of Senator Toby Ann Stavisky
Photo Courtesy of Senator Toby Ann Stavisky
While local leaders said they fought to remove this “offensive” billboard, the marketing company behind the slogan said it only came down because it “ran its course.”

A shot at advertising for one vodka company didn’t go down as smoothly as planned.

A Willets Point billboard — declared offensive by local leaders — read “Escort Quality, Hooker Pricing.” The provocative message, officials feared, could potentially reverse efforts and resources put into developing the area into a residential, retail center for families.

The sign hung above 127th Place and Northern Boulevard, overlooking Citi Field, before local leaders said they pushed to have manufacturers take it down.

“The offensive nature of this ad in such close proximity to a family destination like Citi Field was highly inappropriate,” said Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz, who worked alongside Senator Toby Ann Stavisky to have the billboard removed. “Keeping such content out of the view of young children should be a priority.”

Stavisky and Simanowitz said they wrote to James Dale, CEO of Panache Beverages — which manufacturers the promoted Wodka Vodka brand — to urge the company to consider removing their ad.

Soon after, they said the company complied, and the sign came down on Monday, March 12.

“I’m glad the vodka company agreed to remove the billboard. We took particular exception with placing such a distasteful and disturbing advertisement in a neighborhood we have worked so hard to rehabilitate,” Stavisky said.

However, according to a marketing executive for Wodka Vodka, the company took down the slogan simply and only because “the campaign ran its course.”

“Contrary to apparent memos that have been circulating in the community, we did not take the billboard down because of supposed community uproar, letters or other pressures,” said Brian Gordon, CEO of Engine Shop, the marketing agency that handles Wodka Vodka. “We’ve always stood by the campaign.”

Gordon cited data that shows “at least 80 to 90 percent of people actually look at the billboard favorably.”

“There are much more serious issues going on. Community leaders should focus on jobs, the economy, crime and so on, rather than a billboard that was obviously created to be humorous,” he said.

But Stavisky said the issue is not “a silly distraction.” The sobering truth, she said, is that it “sends a message that denigrating women is acceptable, or worse, fashionable.”

Gordon said the company plans to put up new billboards next week. While he said he did not yet know the location, “there will be at least one site in Queens,” he said.

This is not the first time Panache Beverages has been slammed for its unfavorable marketing campaigns. Last November, a Manhattan-placed advertisement read “Christmas Quality, Hanukkah Pricing,” which incensed the Anti-Defamation League and was ordered to be taken down.

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